Kevin Marsh, editor of the BBC College of Journalism, said that Blair was right to highlight the problems with the PCC but that the solution did not lie in creating another regulatory body similar to the broadcasting body, Ofcom.
Marsh said the focus needed to shift to Parliament and perhaps the creation of a standing royal commission, allowing Parliament to debate the actions of the press in the previous year.
‘The PCC is so weak – it’s just a lame trade association – but I don’t think setting up another body is the thing.”
Marsh added: ‘It’s trying to put it into the area where the conduct of the press is part of that national debate. Well who better to debate it – it’s debated on blogs now – but to get the people’s representatives, their own MPs to debate the press.”
Marsh said that Blair ‘ducked’the issue in accusing the press of diminishing the significance of Parliament in its reporting. ‘I don’t think a lot of the turning away from Parliament is something the press of itself decided to do. I think a lot of the pressures New Labour management created pushed people away from reporting on Parliament because the place it was happening was No.10.”
Marsh said Blair’s speech could shed light on Gordon Brown’s future strategy in dealing with the press.
Brown has already mooted the idea of a written constitution – one which could possibly enshrine a place for journalism within it, said Marsh.
‘Whether this idea of a written constitution would include some sort of compact with the press, I don’t know. The thing is once you have something that looks and feels like a written constitution, you get to a place where the fourth estate has actually got a place within the constitution.”
‘Everyone knows that the relationship between politics but particularly politics and the press is a complete mess at the moment, is an absolute shambles and everyone would like to improve it in some way – Blair is right about the idea that there’s a big debate to have. And I think Gordon is absolutely determined to have that debate.”
Marsh said the fact that Brown had stressed the need to put parliament at the centre of politics and power has got to be seen to be exercised at local level.